I had Lily and the Octopus on my to-read list, but then I saw Steven Rowley’s new book on NetGalley, and of course I bumped my ridiculously long line to read that one first (thanks, NetGalley!). I couldn’t help myself—this book has a terrific hook of a premise. As an author, getting your first book deal seems achievement enough, but Rowley ups the ante when the debut author in his novel meets his editor—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Of course this must have happened to many people over her two decades in publishing, but I had never thought of the day-to-day reality of it before. I checked online to see if there were other stories about Jackie’s career in books, and ironically, two came out within months of each other in 2010 and 2011, but it doesn’t look like either of them gained any real traction.
Rowley comes at this from a different angle, in novel form rather than a straight biography or collection of anecdotes. I think this book draws its success from the fact that, while we are inspired by Onassis and the glamour of Camelot that she represented, we probably appreciate the working-woman ordinariness of her even more. Onassis is truly just a hook, because this story is not about the public figure we think we know. Instead, Rowley tells the moving story of a writer’s journey to find his truth, at the urging of his caring and sometimes enigmatic editor. The fact that this editor is Onassis is merely incidental; because at the end of the day, all that truly matters to each of them is bringing the very best story to the page.